Monday, 23 February 2009

'Save the Albatross' Campaign a Remarkable Success

The outlook for endangered albatross species has dramatically improved, thanks to the success of an international conservation programme implemented by the RSPB and Birdlife International.

The Albatross Task Force (ATF) was established in 2006 in order to reduce the number of accidental albatross deaths caused by long-line fishing. At the time, it was estimated that one bird was killed every five minutes from long line fishing, and 19 of the 22 albatross species were under threat from extinction.

The birds dying because they were taking bait from fishing lines fed into the sea from boats fishing for tuna or swordfish. Once they swallowed the bait, they would become caught on the hook, dragged underwater and drown.

Specialist instructors from the ATF went out with fishermen and taught them techniques that would stop the birds becoming entangled. They were encouraged to fish at night, weight their lines and attach streamers the back of vessels to scare the birds away. Government legislation also played its part by stipulating that no more than 25 birds could be caught as "by-catch" during trips.

The programme has been heralded as a resounding success, and has reduced deaths by up to 85% in some locations.

Dr Ross Wanless, coordinator of the Birdlife programme in Africa, said: "Changing entrenched attitudes and practices is a slow process, but the ATF has shown that by working with government and industry, change is possible."

Whilst the 19 species are not freed from the threat of extinction yet- many are still snagged by trawlers, breeding is slow and habitats are endangered - the campaign is likely to have made a remarkable impact on their population stability and its success cannot be understated.

Learn more about the 'Save the Albatross' Campaign here

Read more about this story at the BBC News website and the Times News website